So, About Those Extended Endings

Three months to the day ago, I decided to write a post called What I Want to See from Bioware, vis-a-vis the proposed Extend Cut of Mass Effect 3.

And now I have seen those endings. All four of them.

That is your warning, kiddos. Spoilers dead ahead.

In that prior post, there were a number of things I was looking for from Bioware, in Best Case/Worst Case scenarios. The biggest one was the Normandy scene at the end, which made no goddamn sense whatsoever – it essentially ruined the endings for me all by itself. What I wanted to see in the Extended Cut was:

What I want to see from Bioware:

  • Best Case: an explanation of how the crew (EDI and Liara, in my case) got back on-board the Normandy, what the Normandy was doing while I was on the Citadel, if they knew/suspected Shepard was alive or dead, and why they were running away.
  • Worst Case: ensure that the crew with you on the final mission don’t show up in the final scene.

Mission accomplished. In a big way.

Yes. Yes he did.

In the interests of being somewhat objective, the “answer” they gave to where your crew members were at was… a bit hard to swallow. With Harbinger easily knocking out tanks and fighters left and right, it seemed quite out of character for him to let the Normandy land, for people to be evacuated, for there to be time enough for one last tearful goodbye, and then an escape back into orbit. If the Normandy was capable of landing, why not just drop off a bunch of people at the beam itself?

I am willing to entertain the notion that Harbinger would not care about Normandy picking people back up, as long as they were not being moved closer to the beam, although that seems a bit weak.

Outside of that gripe? Smashing success on the other points. I laughed out loud when Hackett said what he did in the screenshot above; partly from the unexpected bluntness, and partly from the beginnings of a catharsis I had been missing for the last three months.

The next section of that prior post was about Indoctrination:

What I want to see from Bioware:

  • Best case: Settle the Indoctrination debate once and for all. If Indoctrination is real, include a true final battle scene, potentially followed by the same sort of choices.
  • Worst case: Remove the breath scene.

As far as I am concerned, the Indoctrination theory is kaput. It was actually kaput months ago, but the mini-epilogues following each ending serves as final nails. In the scheme of things, Indoctrination was a better ending than what we were originally given, but these new ones supersede the old in a good way.

The breath scene is unfortunately still in the game, but since March I have come to understand that the Destroy ending is actually truly Renegade. Ironically, all those Indoctrination videos had led me to believe that Control was bad and Destroy good, (i.e. the real ending), when that really was not the case. It is true that “nuking the site from orbit is the only way to be sure,” so to speak, but condemning all synthetics to death, including EDI, when other options are available is undeniably Renegade. Control may not seem like the way the Reaper threat should be handled, but a Paragon Shepard would take that chance. The consensus says: these units do have souls.

The final section was general plot holes:

What I want to see from Bioware:

  • Best case: Shore up these plot holes via Codex entries, FAQs, or at least acknowledge they exist.
  • Worst case: leave everything vague and unsettled.

Many of the points I raised regarding the Citadel were answered by the expanded Catalyst dialog, if a bit weakly. Not the biggest one, though. Why the Reapers did not simply reassert control of the Citadel immediately upon emerging from dark space is probably one of those “Why didn’t the Eagles just fly Frodo to Mount Doom?” questions for the ages.

The Endings Themselves

Talk about night and day compared to the previous ones, eh?

Should have shipped like this.

The amusing thing to me, is how my very first extended ending was the new one.

Unintentionally.

After slogging through the Cerberus base and the London battle and the unskippable post-beam dialog, the very first thing I did when I regained control over Shepard was shoot the Catalyst in the face. His Harbinger-esque “So be it” response took me aback, as did the unexpectedly poignant “Failure” ending. I remembered that time-capsule scene with Liara, and was even touched by the knowledge that though we had failed, the cycle was eventually broken by the next generation of intelligent species. Whom, while still looking suspiciously like asari, nevertheless had the gumption to actually take Reaper threat goddamn seriously. “Was that so hard?” I asked the monitor afterwards.

I played through all three of the other main ones, and was immensely satisfied. It is still Synthesis – aka the Green Cupcake – all the way for me, but I felt that Bioware did an excellent job at handling the Control ending as well. They all felt a bit… Deus Ex. In a good way. I have no idea how they will rationalize additional post-ME3 games in the Mass Effect universe, at least without holding Destroy up as canon, but I suppose we will all jump off that bridge when we come to it.

Months ago, a friend asked me as to whether I would purchase any future ME3 DLC. At the time, I replied “It will depend on how Bioware handles the Extended Cut.” Although I am extraordinarily happier with the series now than I was back in March, I am not sure that I want to revisit Shepard and crew again. Say what you will about the writing or “cheap emotional tricks” or whatever else, but this series truly has affected me in ways few games (or books, or movies) have.

I forgive you, Joker.

I am thankful for the experience, of course. I just know that the longer I stay in Manse de la Shepard, the less likely I am to enjoy all the other experiences out there. It is hard enough handling regular post-game depression, without also having to question why I am not a better man in real life.

I am only half-way joking.

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Posted on June 27, 2012, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Fully agree; this series managed to strike a nerve like no other games I’ve ever played. I actually cared about these characters. I had goosebumps at the “fallen wall” scene, and I, too, found myself quipping something to the effect of “it’s OK” to Joker when he expressed his sadness at having to fly off without Shepard.

    This was really well done by BioWare – the music, the dialogue, the choices – all of it. Like you, I wonder why it took gamer outrage to get the endings the series truly deserved. But it was worth the wait.

  2. Some reposted thoughts, since I got excited and put them on the last post:

    It’s… not so great? I’m conflicted, as the proper post-choice bit is expanded enough to confirm what I’d already assumed (that I probably hadn’t killed most of the galaxy with my choice of explosion color, and that everyone was going to basically get on with their lives), but good GOD, the conversation with the Catalyst elaborates on the writers’ thought processes in all the wrong ways- way too much time spelling out, in detail, that the stupid thing they vaguely alluded to in the original is, in fact, what is happening. And still vague enough to feel like Shepard’s being patronized.

    At least previously, I could pretend that the catalyst was the 100 million year old space-God equivalent of Clippy (It looks like you’re trying to “Destroy Reapers.” Can I help?), but now, instead of seeming obtuse and limited, it acts intelligent and forthcoming enough to make the choice feel like “I could help you, but this is what we wrote for you. Take it or leave it.”

    Although, I will note that one of the “we made some concept art to talk over!” bits got a surprisingly strong emotional reaction from me- Samara and (I’m assuming) her daughter, on what looked like Thessia, just… hanging out in a park. Looking content. That made me happy enough to have made the thing worth it, I suppose.

    On the “how would I have reacted if it were the ending I’d got on my first playthrough” scale, I’d go with “mildly dissapointed”- there’s still too much emphasis on “Humans versus Synthetics” as the cycle explanation, and the expanded explanation for the synthesis ending get WAY goofy (changing the matrix of all life means… what?). Also, Buzz Aldrin continues to be a terrible voice actor, I don’t care how many moons he’s been to.

  3. “After slogging through the Cerberus base and the London battle and the unskippable post-beam dialog, the very first thing I did when I regained control over Shepard was shoot the Catalyst in the face.”

    I did the exact same thing!

  4. So, the new pre-beam extraction sequence? That’s dependent on how high your EMS score is. (It’s EMS, right?) If you’ve got a high enough score then your team mates are extracted. If not, it’s beam death ahoy for them. So while at first I too was thinking “How the hell did Joker pull that off?”, he only pulls it off if your military forces are strong enough, which makes enough sense for me.

    Overall I was quite pleased with the Extended Cut. Despite still being a bit holey the star child’s explanations are vastly improved, and the post-Normandy crash scenes are excellent. The synthesis ending was gorgeous … EDI made me shed a few tears with her speech.